Padilla Bay

Ahh, Washington. You can pick a date and a hike weeks in advance, and then days before with rampant flooding all around, you get to scramble for a backup. Ain’t it grand?

I admit, for finding a hike last weekend that was low flood-risk, low mud-risk, and low avalanche risk, I had to rack my brain a bit. Once again, Skagit County came to the rescue! Besides my beloved Anacortes Community Forest Lands, I remembered several other trails in the area between I-5 and Anacortes. We choose Padilla Bay for our trek.

There are two parking areas at the north and south ends of this out-and-back trail. The north one has a bit more walking and elevation, but is far larger compared to the south one, so I’d recommend that one. We descended from the parking lot, crossed the street, and navigated the narrow shoulder for a few hundred feet before the gate for the trail. The trail itself is a wide gravel path and very well maintained. Given the sun’s valiant effort to be present, it wasn’t surprising to see many walkers and joggers out enjoying the trail.

Some of many benches peppering the trail. I could do without the oil refinery view, though!

I admit, the giant oil refinery across the bay definitely hampered the view. However, on this walk (which I’d definitely call a walk, not a hike) the biggest draw isn’t the view–it’s the wildlife. Tons of bird-watchers flock (heh) here, especially in winter for the birds. Every winter snow geese arrive in Skagit County, and bald eagles can abound here. We saw none from the trail (but on the drive to the parking area there is a massive nest that was inhabited on our drive back) but others have better luck. We saw many Great Blue Herons and other birds I lack the skills in identifying, so bring your binoculars if you have some!

A heron with what I believe is Lummi Island behind it.

The gentle path along the bay has tons of benches for those wanting a break or seat for bird-watching. Between the birds and the easy path, the first mile-plus flew by. Closer to the end of the path, there was an old barn with some rusting equipment that made for a postcard-worthy picture. The end came far too soon, and we turned heel to take the trek back.

While this walk was no difficult trek with an amazing payoff, isn’t any day outdoors in the PNW great? Padilla Bay is great year-round for those with young children, or any limiting injury or mobility issues to still get to enjoy some nature. It’s also great for any avian enthusiasts!


In summary:

Distance: 4.4 miles RT trailhead to trailhead; 4.7 RT if starting from the larger north parking lot

Elevation: 30 feet of gain (slightly more if starting at the north parking lot)

Parking: No pass required at either lot; but I’d recommend bringing your Discover Pass for the close-by Bayview State Park

Bathrooms: One large (ADA-size) Honey Bucket in each parking lot

Best Beer Bet: We happily went to La Conner Brewing after.


2 Replies to “Padilla Bay”

  1. I loved your instagram post – how peaceful!

    1. Thank you! It was so nice to just get out–and stay dry!

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